Friday, April 25, 2014

Advice on Batteries and Chargers ... (Updated)

... from Graywolf Survival. He recommends standardizing on a single battery size, and recommends the AA size for most people as it is the most common size in the U.S.

Update 4/27/2014: A reader has posted some great comments (additional information, experiences and ideas), so please read the comments.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with Graywolf on standardizing on AA cells for your emergency equipment. That is pretty much what I have done, especially in my emergency bags. Besides lights, radios and GPS receivers are readily available that run on AA cells.

    Most handheld GPS receivers run on a pair of AA cells. There are exceptions, such as the Garmin Foretrex series of GPS receivers, which take two AAA cells.

    Most portable radios use AA cells. I'm about ready to update the emergency kit in my vehicle to include the Sony SRF-59 radio (www.amazon.com/dp/B00006JQ06/), which runs practically forever (2 months at five-days a week for 3 to 5 hours each day) on a single AA alkaline cell. As an added bonus, the SRF-59 typically sells for less than $20. (The only downside to the SRF-59 is that sometimes, they aren't properly aligned at the factory, and I've had to do some internal tweaking to improve performance.)

    As Graywolf said, good LED flashlights that run on AA cells are readily available. I have chosen the Inova X1 LED flashlight to include in my emergency kits because Inova flashlights have proven over the years to be reliable. It runs on a single AA cell and puts out plenty of light. However, most of headlamps (e.g. Petzl) run on three AAA cells.

    Even some exotic equipment is AA cell powered. The Thermal-Eye handheld tactical thermal imaging cameras run on two AA cells.

    Where I disagree with Graywolf is his choice of GoalZero solar panels and chargers. I've looked at the GoalZero panels and found them to be comparatively heavy, and their rigid construction makes them rather bulky. Further, I once bought a GoalZero solar powered flashlight which turned out to be very poorly made (poor internal construction and a switch that quickly failed). And, GoalZero equipment is all made in China.

    Instead, I have purchased PowerFilm AA chargers (www.amazon.com/dp/B001RMF7P8/), which charge two or four AA cells. It weighs practically nothing, and folds up into a small package that fits in a shirt pocket. The solar cells themselves are flexible, although I wouldn't try folding one in half and expect it to work well afterward. The last PowerFilm solar panel I purchased came with several AAA adapters, so it could charge AAA cells, too.

    To store my AA cells, I have purchased plastic storage cases that hold 4 AA cells (e.g. www.amazon.com/dp/B00B21PBJG/). With these storage cases, you don't have loose batteries floating around in a pocket or the bottom of a backpack.

    To charge my iPhone, I built a MintyBoost kit (www.adafruit.com/products/14) that will charge the iPhone from a pair of AA cells.

    Another strategy to consider in your battery planning, especially when using disposable batteries, such as Alkaline and Lithium cells, is that when they seem to be exhausted after use in a high-current device like a flashlight, they may still be able to power a low-current device like a radio for a useful period of time.

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    1. Great information! Thank you for sharing.

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